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Thursday, January 16, 2014

DVD Review: The Song Within: Sedona

The Song Within: Sedona is a documentary film about people in the Sedona area of Arizona, and the various artistic ways they express themselves while journeying inward. It opens with images of gorgeous landscapes. A woman’s voice tells us: “This journey began with the basic belief that wisdom is everywhere.” She then says she wondered what treasures would be uncovered if people looked seriously within their own communities. And so they started “an exploration of women in different communities,” beginning with their own in the Sedona region of Arizona. Why just women, and not men? The film doesn’t tell us why only female subjects were chosen. But the idea behind the film is interesting.

We’re then introduced to sixteen different women in the area, women who have found different artistic paths through which to express themselves. We get a few minutes with each woman, one after the other. Because only a few minutes are spent with each woman, the film never delves too deeply into any of their lives. The film is almost more of a sketch of the area, as seen through women with various artistic pursuits.

On screen, each woman in turn is identified by name and occupation. And as you might expect from the film’s opening voice over, some of them have occupations like “healing artist” and “leadership coach.” I’m not exactly sure what a leadership coach is, but Sarah Naylor tells us that she helps people create sacred space inside and out. (Yes, some of these women come across as loonier than others.)  Several of the women are artists, and we see their work while they speak to us.

The first woman is a healing artist and retreat owner. She tells us: “People come to Sedona. It’s a mecca that draws people from all over the world because people want to receive something very, very real.” She talks about people connecting with the beauty of the land, and with something deeper within themselves. She also talks about her “retreat sanctuary” and we see images of it. She says you cannot deny the beauty of the area, and that’s true, at least from the images we’re shown.

Some of the women have interesting stories. For example, Florence B. Schauffler is an older woman who talks about going back to college when she was in her fifties after splitting with her husband. She took theatre courses, and then moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as an actress on such films as Bachelor Party and Pumpkinhead, and television shows such as Newhart and Mr. Belvedere. Interestingly, we also meet her daughter, Jennifer Schauffler-Virosik, a healing artist.

Nancy Matthews, the founder of Sedona School of Massage, talks about how when she was at a gathering of women, each woman in the circle said what she loved, and when it was her turn she realized she loved teaching. And so she opened a school. She talks about how she would just focus on the very next thing she needed to do rather than everything at once to keep from getting overwhelmed.

Ruth Waddell, an artist, is one of the most endearing and likeable subjects interviewed. She says you forget your troubles when creating “because it requires so much of you that other things fall away while you’re working.” True. She also says, “Sometimes we assume that somebody else sees what we see, and it’s hard to remember that that’s not the case.”

In the last twenty or so minutes of the film, we return to some of the women for more about finding happiness within. Oddly, especially considering how short the film is (75 minutes according to the box, 69 minutes according to my DVD player), toward the end, snippets of some of the interviews are repeated. Are these the lines the filmmaker really wanted us to remember? It comes across as rather cheap and off-putting, as a way of extending the length of the film rather than stressing a point.

The Song Within: Sedona was directed by Kathy Douglas, and is scheduled to be released on DVD on February 4, 2014. There are no special features on the DVD.

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